Web Design For Demons

If there was ever an opportunity to embrace a more quirky, crafty approach to everyday eats, Halloween is your best bet. When else could you serve up cobwebs on a platter with any sense of success? Spooky Summer Rolls are a whimsical way to eat your veggies and celebrate the holiday all in the same bite. Best of all, it’s not hard to unravel the secrets behind these enchanting entrees, even if you have limited time or means to throw a spooktacular Halloween party.

Get Tangled in these Toothsome Webs

Spring rolls, summer rolls, or autumn rolls; you can call them whatever you want, as long as they start with translucent rice paper wraps encasing a treasure trove of ghostly goodies. At the heart of these Spooky Summer Rolls lies a tangle of delicate cellophane noodles, effortlessly creating the appearance of intricate spider webs.

Adding a pop of protein are meaty planks of baked tofu, accentuated by the salty pop of olives, crawling along on slender spidery legs. Any assortment of your favorite veggies would be welcome here, but my default, foolproof array includes carrot, cucumber, and avocado, for a crunchy, refreshing, and rich combination altogether.

A roll is only as good as its dipping sauce, and the black garlic dressing does not disappoint. Dark as midnight, creamy and rich, it packs volumes of umami, salty, sweet, and gently acidic flavor into a tiny drop. You could skip the food-grade charcoal if you’re less focused on color, or switch it up for butterfly pea tea powder to turn it an unearthly shade of blue instead.

How to Make Plant-Based Spiders

Transforming black olives into cute creepy-crawlies is a fun trick that can be used to garnish all sorts of spooky snacks. Simply slice the olives in half lengthwise, reserving half of those to serve as the bodies. To create the legs, slice the remaining halves into thin slivers horizontally. Arrange the olive slices upside-down on the rice paper to create the appearance of eight spindly legs. In no time at all, you’ll have summoned a legion of miniature olive spiders, ready to crawl onto your plate.

Supernatural Serving Suggestions

Half the fun is setting the scene for All Hallows’ Eve. Turn it into a real show-stopper or a DIY activity for all to enjoy!

  • Cemetery Soiree: Set the stage for a graveyard gala by arranging the Spooky Summer Rolls on a platter amidst edible “dirt” made from crushed dark rice crackers.
  • Witch’s Cauldron: Elevate your presentation by serving the rolls in a cauldron-like bowl, surrounded by a “fog” of dry ice for a dramatic and mysterious effect.
  • Goblin Picnic: Pack these rolls for an outdoor adventure, Halloween-themed picnic, or school lunch. Kids will love the surprise of discovering these eerie delights.
  • Monstrous Make-Your-Own: Lay out all the ingredients and let your guests concoct their own Spooky Summer Rolls. It’s an edible craft project that will also save you time and energy.

As the witching hour approaches and the moon glows brightly, embrace the spirit of the season with Spooky Summer Rolls that are not only a treat for your taste buds but also a feast for your eyes. Gather your friends, family, and other victims for a Halloween feast that’s as hauntingly delicious as it is spooktacularly fun!

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Brain-Eating Vegan Zombies

Legend has it that vegan zombies only eat grains, making them less of a threat to humanity than conventional omnivores. That may be true of the old-school undead, but times have changed. If we can have nearly identical analogues for steak and seafood, why wouldn’t we be able to upgrade to plant-based brains, too?

This decadent brain food pâté is scary delicious. Creamy, firm but spreadable, buttery and subtly savory, brains are a delicacy unlike any other. The addition of blood-red sriracha on top introduces a spicy, tangy element that makes it truly irresistible. Heat from the chili peppers and acidity from the vinegar play off the richness of the brainy base. You might end up fighting the zombies off to go back for seconds and thirds yourself.

What Are Brain Foods?

Brain food pate is more than just a fun Halloween party starter; it has real brain-boosting nutrition behind it! A varied diet is key for reaping the greatest nutritional rewards, but certain foods in particular have been shown to have a greater impact on our cognitive abilities, such as understanding and processing new information, plus maintaining memory and concentration. This pate isn’t just brainy in appearance, but a smart choice for your health!

  • Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts are particularly beneficial in this category, packed with protein and omega fatty acids. Protein builds brain cells, amino acids help them communicate, and omega fatty acids keep things humming.
  • Beans: All legumes are like the support crew for your brain, supplying fiber, B vitamins, and those omega fatty acids. Fiber offers steady energy, B vitamins aid memory, and omega fatty acids keep your brain sharp.
  • Beets: These earthy root vegetables fight inflammation, pack in antioxidants, and amp up blood flow, all of which help boost brainpower.

Big Brain Ideas and Adaptations

There’s a wide range of brains out there; big, small, sweet, and bitter. Use your own intellect to customize shapes and flavors to your own personal preferences.

  • Nut-free: Swap the walnuts for sunflower seeds. If you want an even more haunting color, add a pinch of baking soda to turn those seeds green!
  • Not spicy: For the more timid of palate, feel free to omit the sriracha and serve your brains plain, or use mild cocktail sauce instead.
  • Hip to be square: If you need a less gruesome presentation for the office potluck or a less appropriate holiday, like Christmas or Hannukah, set the pate in a simple square baking dish, rather than a brain jello mold.

Serving Suggestions

Don’t be a halfwit by serving up brains with no accoutrements.

  • Something as simple as crackers and vegetable crudites will do just fine.
  • Soft bread would also be a welcome foundation for this schmear, enjoyed solo or turned into a fully stacked sandwich.
  • Briny pickles, such as cornichons (small cucumbers), cocktail onions, or pickled peppers help balance the richness of the pâté with contrast acidity and crunch.
  • Serve up slabs of brain on salad plates for a formal first course, nestled into mixed greens to provide a crisp, refreshing element.
  • Wine pairing are always welcome, particularly a crisp white wine, a light rosé, or a sparkling champagne to cleanse the palate between bites. Contrary to popular belief, a nice Chianti would be quite overpowering.

Vegan zombie fam, I’ve got you this Halloween. Stop settling for bland grains, when you can have genuine brains in all their glory. It’s simply a smarter choice for your health and happiness.

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Crab Walk To A Better Crab Cake

When the person you’re dating casually mentions that they like crab cakes, you find a way to make crab cakes.

Look, I don’t make the rules here, that’s just how it goes. Said person could have expressed an attraction to fugu or turducken, for all you know, so there’s no reason why such a simple desire can’t be indulged.

Making Vegan Crab Cakes

Crab has a fairly mild flavor, subtly sweet and oceanic, often compared to lobster, without the oily fishy flavor that smaller sea creatures are known for. Replicating this experience in a convincing way requires taking this unique taste and tender, shredded texture into account.

  • Most plant based crab cake recipes feature jackfruit, the hottest tropical fruit to hit American dining room tables. Though I’ve previously used an unconventional combination of glass noodles and tofu to replicate that shredded, chewy texture, I wanted to tap a lesser known import for this version: banana blossoms. They’re very similar in the eating experience of brined young jackfruit packed in cans, but have a softer bite and slightly more natural taste. Banana blossoms can be found fresh in the produce section of more robust Asian markets, canned alongside the jackfruit, or frozen, nearby the other veggies and edamame in the freezer aisle. I used frozen which comes finely shredded and simply needs to be thawed. If you’re starting with larger pieces, you’ll want to thinly julienne them with a sharp knife, or pulse them a few times in your food processor.
  • Nothing says “ship shape” like a pinch of dried wakame. It rehydrates about 3 to 4 times in volume, so I like to crush it roughly to better distribute the flakes.
  • Panko breadcrumbs act as a binder and textural enhancement; contrary to antiquated approaches, it’s NOT a filler and is key for overall enjoyment. You can find gluten-free versions if needed, but don’t swap in standard Italian breadcrumbs, which will make the crab cakes too dense and heavy.

Serving Suggestions

Crab cakes don’t need to get dressed up to go out; they always look fabulous, even without makeup on.

  • Pass around a platter of crab cakes as a standalone snack or appetizer, perhaps with tartar sauce or sriracha mayo for dipping, and call it a night.
  • Craft a complete meal around them, making them the star of the show. A voluminous arugula or spinach salad is a great way to get your greens without distracting from the headliners. On cold nights, saute, stir fry, or even cream those greens to serve the whole thing hot. For a different take on scampi or alfredo, crown your pile of garlicky noodles with crisp crab cakes, rather than more shrimpy fare.
  • Leftovers make stunningly great sandwich fodder. They’re a bit fragile so they tend to fall apart when reheated. Don’t sweat it! Embrace the unraveling and add an extra dollop of vegan mayo to make an incredible crab salad. Slap it between two slices of bread with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and anything else you like. Eat as is or brush with melted vegan butter and toast the whole thing.

Crab Cakes are an easy request to fulfill. Say you’re making them as a favor, but it’s okay to want them for yourself, too.

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Queso The Mondays

The longer I live in Texas, the more recipes I’ll have for queso. A party doesn’t start without liquid cheese on the table, and who says you can only have one?

Though chili is the official state dish of Texas, I think queso should have its own distinction as the state’s official dip. While we’re on the subject, pecan trees are the official trees of Texas and naturally, pecans the official nut. While cashews are the standard base for vegan queso, there’s no reason why we can’t take a more Texan approach to this savory staple.

What Makes This The Best Vegan Queso Recipe

Buttery, subtly sweet, and robustly nutty, pecans add a whole new level of decadence to everyone’s favorite Tex-Mex appetizer. Creamy and thick enough to generously coat chips, it’s rich enough to satisfy any craving. Plus, it’s ready in mere minutes, so you can always have queso on hand for gatherings big or small.

Uses For Plant-Based Queso

Naturally, queso was made for dipping tortilla chips, but that’s just the start. Save some for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in all sorts of other dishes.

  • Drizzled over tacos
  • Mixed into tofu scramble
  • Stuffed into burritos
  • Used as filling for quesadillas
  • Tossed with pasta

Forget processed dairy products. There’s a whole world of queso with bolder flavor and better nutrition, and I promise, it’s not a tough nut to crack.

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Do As You Peas

Standing in the kitchen, hands full of half-peeled zucchini in the dark of night, I’m trying to channel my grandmother circa 1984. Five years before I was born, President Ronald Reagan was in office, astronauts went on the first untethered space walk on the moon, and Apple made a splash with its infamous “1984” Macintosh commercial. It was also the year that Bon Appétit magazine published a recipe for Zucchini Cups Stuffed with Peas.

Zucchini Cups Stuffed With Peas - Recipe Card from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 1984

I know this because my grandmother so carefully clipped and preserved this relic of the past. It survived nearly four decades, multiple moves, deaths and births, whole lifetimes. Not once did I ever see zucchini cups with peas grace our table, and I can’t help but wonder…Zucchini cups, cored

Why? Why zucchini cups?

  • Why was this recipe run in December, for starters, when neither zucchini nor peas would be in season?
  • Why was this the standout dish my grandmother kept, of things?
  • Why couldn’t I stop thinking about it, from the minute my mom unearthed it?

Stuffing baked zucchini cups with peas.

These questions have no answers.

My grandmother doesn’t remember the zucchini cups or what inspired her to file the recipe away. I’m okay with not knowing; some things just are that way, and I’m happy to have this taste of the past, maybe even better than what my grandmother had envisioned during her years of entertaining.

Zucchini cups stuffed with peas on a silver platter.

Small changes were necessary, of course, to veganize and enhance the original stuffed zucchini recipe with modern ingredients and technology.

  • Butter is traded for peppery extra virgin olive oil.
  • Dried tarragon gets axed in favor of verdant fresh herbs.
  • Melon ballers belong only in museums at this point, so I reached for my trusty zucchini reamer instead (yes, that’s a thing)- Though you could very happily use a regular pairing knife here.
  • Boiled zucchini sound downright dreadful, which is why the dry heat of the oven, which concentrates flavors and gently browns the surface, had much greater appeal.

The real beauty of the concept, however, is that it doesn’t take much to assemble or enjoy. I suppose they were intended to serve as appetizers or snacks for guests, as every good housewife should be ready to entertain at the drop of a hat, but I happen to think they make a fantastic side dish for any random weekday dinner, too.

Green pea stuffing.

If you have extra peas, those alone are brilliant to pair with just about any protein, such as a meatless loaf, balls, or cutlet, especially with creamy mashed potatoes or al dente pasta as a base. Beyond that, consider using them to top avocado toast, puree to use as a dip, or mash roughly to stuff into sandwiches.

Zucchini cups stuffed with peas on a silver platter.

I’m certain my grandmother never made the original recipe, but I hope I could still do her proud with my rendition. We don’t have many memories together, at least in recent years, so I’m grateful to keep making new ones now.

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Playing With Fire

Food is simply more fun when you can set it on fire. Don’t believe me? Clearly, you need more saganaki in your life.

What Is Saganaki?

Although most people associate the word saganaki with gooey cheese that’s pan fried and served hot, the word itself actually refers to the cast iron pan itself. A wide variety of appetizers, or Greek tapas, if you will, fall under the category. Given the popularity of molten cheese though, 9.5 times out of 10, this is the version most people think of.

Fire isn’t a mandatory or even traditional ingredient. It was first presented with this theatrical flare at the Parthenon Greek Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. Given the opportunity to set food on fire, however, why would you chose anything else?

How To Make Vegan Saganaki

Vegan saganaki is made just the like classic by simply swapping out the dairy. Of course, there’s no direct non-dairy translation for traditional kasseri cheese, but plenty of respectable substitutes. Plant-based feta is your best bet, since it melts reasonably for that satisfying gooey interior, has a strong flavor that can stand up to the alcohol infusion, and is widely available in most markets. My favorite vegan feta options, in order, are:

  • Violife
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Daiya

The key is to buy only full blocks, not crumbles or cubes, and nothing tofu-based which is impervious to melting. Of course, meltability is both an asset and a flaw for this preparation. Instead of staying firm but gooey, like a runny brie at room temperature, vegan feta tends to lose all structure and form, liquefying into a rich, creamy dip with a glorious toasty surface. Plant-based saganaki is possibly an improvement over the original, because this version has further applications, such as:

  • Pasta sauce
  • Pizza topping
  • Spanikopita filling

What To Serve With Saganaki

Flaming cheese alone doesn’t make a meal, but it can become a central facet of a well-curated array of savory bites. Whether this is the prelude to a full entree or the main event itself is all in the portions. Classic accompaniments and serving suggestions include:

  • Crusty bread, toast, or crackers
  • Pita wedges, grilled or warmed
  • Olives
  • Dolma (stuffed grape leaves)
  • Hummus
  • Mediterranean or shirazi salad
  • Raw crudites, like sliced cucumbers, carrots, or celery
  • Roasted or grilled vegetables, like red bell peppers, zucchini, or eggplant

Tips For Success

  1. Any high-proof spirit will work in this recipe. Try ouzo to keep it Greek, or use vodka for a more neutral flavor.
  2. Safety first! Turn off stove and remove the pan before adding alcohol. Use a long lighter to ignite the cheese, or light the end of a piece of dried linguine or spaghetti first to act as a conduit.
  3. To make this recipe gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free flour blend instead of all-purpose.
  4. Make a smaller batch by cutting your feta in half or even quarters, and adjusting the remaining ingredients accordingly. It’s more about the technique than exact measurements.Like moths, we’re all inexorably drawn to the flames. When you want to start an event with a bang, impress someone special, or just play with fire, this will be your new favorite party trick.

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